Thursday, 14 August 2014

Batgirl #34 Review

Title: Batgirl #34
Story: Crash and Burn
Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Drake), Huntress (Helena Wayne)
Creators: Gail Simone (writer), Fernando Pasarin (artist)
Publication Date: August 2014
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: The epic finale of Deadline (and Gail Simone's run) begins with a yacht in the middle of Gotham Harbour, just as Charise Carnes prepares to set into motion her ultimatum on Gotham's criminal underworld. Also cruising through Gotham Harbour is Batgirl and two allies: her best friend, the Black Canary, and Earth-2 refugee, the Huntress. Together these three ladies are about to put up a fight for the rights of Gotham's citizens, including the ones Charise intends to kill.

On her way to Charise's yacht, Batgirl thinks about how much of herself is reflected in Charise, and particularly how she could've just easily become like her under similar circumstances. However, she also knows who she really is, how she got to where she is, and realises she is better than this. Obscura calls Batgirl to let her know that everyone is in place for action and Batgirl says to wait for her word. Charise and the Disgraced see Batgirl and her allies approaching, and Gretel attempts to take them out with a bazooka, but the attack is averted by Black Canary's canary cry. Once they are nearby the yacht, the three women climb aboard as their boat (or, rather Batman's boat) goes up in flames in a second attack.

Charise goes to change into her Knightfall costume, but not before she gives the order to attack Gotham. Bonebreaker is confident that Charise and the Disgraced have everything under control given the years of planing that went into their current operation, but Batgirl maintains that she too has a card up her sleeve, or several in this case. In the same fashion that Charise gave the order to send her merc army into action, Batgirl also gives her order to attack Charise's operation at every corner by uttering one simple word: 'gargoyle.' With that, a battle between Charise's mercenary army and the world's greatest heroes for Gotham ensues. Bonebreaker is angry that Batgirl found a way to drop Charise's years of planning flat on its head and begins to attack her. Huntress takes out Gretel while Black Canary and Batgirl take on Bonebreaker herself.

On Gotham's streets, Detective McKenna rescues Ricky Gutierrez and his mother from being assassinated. On another corner of Gotham, Starfire and Fairchild rescue a man from being eaten alive by Clayface. Elsewhere, Raven incapacitates a group of mercs. Batwoman, Strix, and White Rabbit also take out a group of mercs. The Movement take out another group of mercs, and Misfit takes out two more guys uttering her iconic 'darrrrrk veennnngeance' phrase. Zatanna, Katana, Catwoman, Wonder Girl, and Bleez take control of Gotham's more dangerous criminals, and one by one, all of Knightfall's operates are taken out of commission.

Charise doesn't understand how Batgirl was able to accomplish this and Batgirl tells her that it was through her mastery of computer systems and very reliable resources that she was able to shutdown all corners of her operation simultaneously. She then goes on to show her a picture of Charise with her family to remind her of who she was and what she has become. She goes on further to admit that all of her information has been put online, and that with all of her criminal activity out in the open, Charise now has no place in the world left to hide.

Batgirl admits she doesn't want to fight her, but wants her to realise the full extent of the harm she's caused and that she needs help. This causes Charise to break down realising what she has done, and hugs Batgirl for the gift of the photo. Charise goes on to tell Batgirl that her brother, James Gordon Jr, is still alive, which brings a smile to her face. In her newfound enthusiasm, Batgirl goes on to hug Black Canary and stroke the Huntress' face, which causes the latter to smile shyly.

Back in her flat, Barbara tells her roommate, Alysia, that she is starting her life over and the latter asks what she means by that. She tells Alysia that she's leaving Gotham and asks her if she wants to come along. With that, Barbara ends with the note of making her own family.

Review: What else can be said about this epic finale other than the fact that it ends in a rather big bang? More importantly, where do you even begin to discuss a finale that brings in so many fan favourite characters into action, and you find yourself thinking 'goddamnit! I want more?'

Lets start with the exciting cameos. To assist Batgirl in fighting off Knightfall's merc army in Gotham, this issue saw the arrival of Starfire, Fairchild, Batwoman Catwoman, Zatanna, Raven, Wonder Girl, White Rabbit, and they were absolutely glorious on page. Additionally, we saw the arrival of the Movement and the current members of the Birds of Prey, including former members Katana and Misfit as a nice surprise. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first appearance of Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe in the New 52. Exactly how she knows Barbara in this newer universe is something I hope gets explored in the near future and isn't just left in the open.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this epic finale is that it ended on a rather positive note. Given Charise's affinity for brutality as a way of getting her message across, the massive scope of her plan to annihilate Gotham's criminals, one would've expected this to end in a very messy blood bath, but it surprisingly doesn't. Instead it ends with an ensemble of superheroes getting together and genuinely stopping a massacre from happening. The mercs are stopped by the various superheroes, the citizens are actually protected by the police, and Batgirl got Knightfall into a corner when she revealed that through her mastery of computer systems, she was able to crack her system and attack all of her 'hidey holes' at the same time, successfully incapacitating her operation.

The only complaint I had about the way Charise herself was defeated was that it took a photograph of her family to get her to breakdown and realise the 'error of her ways,' which felt rather convenient if not out of place given what the story itself had built-up to. On the one hand, I'm all for a villain realising how flawed their perspective on reality has been with a chance for redemption, but I also wish it would've happened in a more organic way. If the issue here was page count, I would have happily paid an extra bank note or two for an additional 20 pages to see the idea properly developed to a more satisfying conclusion.

On the front of how Simone continues her writing of Helena Wayne's Huntress, she honestly doesn't have her do or say much this time around. She was, nonetheless, still pretty awesome to look at on the pages she appeared on, and her few lines were still as sharp as ever. I think my favourite one in this entire issue is the panel where she tells Gretel 'sorry, they said not let let you speak' when she took her down. It was very Classic Helena Wayne, and it honestly had me wishing she had more lines. Simone really does her voice down to a 'T.' (Should I dare say the 'T' on her Huntress costume?)

One thing that's never really explained in this narrative, however, is why Helena Wayne chose to help out on this particular mission beyond the fact that Gotham still means something to her. Did she at some point find out about Knightfall's plan to annihilate Gotham and told Power Girl she was 'going home' for a bit to help avert a crisis? Or did she just happen to be in town when she found out about it and decided to help? That was never really made clear.

Additionally, this issue ended without any indication of whether or not she made two new friends with Dinah Drake and Barbara Gordon that could lead to future stories with them when she ends up back on Earth-1 following World's End. I know I would definitely love to see more team-ups with these three ladies in the future since she already had history with them in the pre-Crisis days. (On that note, I would also love to see another modern team-up between Huntress, Batgirl, and Batwoman as a nice homage to the original pre-Crisis Horoscopes of Crime story. That'd be sweet.)

On the whole this was a very fun and pleasurable read. Some fans may not enjoy the aesthetic of the post-Crisis Birds of Prey with the original Helena Wayne Huntress and Dinah Drake's Black Canary, but I personally didn't feel that their team-up with Batgirl took away from the story being told. The cameos that made it into this epic finale were an exciting surprise that was worth the entire issue. Lastly, Simone ending her run on a positive note after what was been a bit of a dark run on Batgirl put a smile on my face. Admittedly, I do wish I had picked up this story arc from the beginning instead of diving right in just when the Huntress arrived for a bit more context, but I was nonetheless kept on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I'll definitely be getting the trade to this when that comes out!

★★★★★

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